I've actually visited Vogel a couple of times these past weeks. I was waiting to make up my mind about them before posting anything, but I figure I'd give you what I have so far and ask for some input before proceeding. (1) Their store is divided into two areas on the ground floor. A somewhat cramped waiting room facing the street with a couple of seats, a cat, and a display of their shoes and boots, both equestrian and casual. They seem to have more models available than is shown on their web site. From here you can see the main work area where 2 or 3 people are, no doubt, in the process of making shoes. I intend to request a tour at my next visit. (2) As many hours as I have spent on this forum, and doing my own research, my ability to judge the quality of a shoe is still in its infancy. At this stage all I can say is that Vogel shoes remind me of Allen-Edmonds and Alden when it comes to the finish. This is not meant as a criticism since I happen to like both AE and Alden very much. Knowing that Vogels will be hand lasted and entirely hand made except for the stitching, puts them a step above. (3) When ordering boots, measurements are taken by a salesperson, and no custom last is created. The argument for this is that boots are much easier to fit and don't require the precise measurements a shoe might. This seems to make sense to me, but I'm curious to know what others think. (4) When ordering shoes, the last maker will be taking his own measurements. My understanding is that last is built from scratch, though I'm not certain that I can verify this. Customer lasts are stored in excess of 10 years. (5) The first pair of custom shoes takes 12 weeks for delivery. There are no fittings in between measuring and delivery. If there are fitting issues, they assure me that they will take care of it. (6) They are willing to make custom designs provided you bring samples or pictures. If I place an order with them, I believe I would keep the first pair fairly simple. I'm considering the Manchester
, in fine pebble-grained black calfskin and a double leather sole. I may add a heel cap to give it a more rugged look in the back. This would not add to the cost. A more complex welt, however, would add $100-$150 to the price. (7) When requesting to see a swatch of pebble-grained leather I was offered something made by the Pebody Leather Co from the UK. I have no idea if this leather is of good quality and appreciate any opinions from readers regarding this company. They will also work with Shell Cordovan and exotics like snakeskin and alligator. I honestly can't find anything that raises red flags and says "do not order from these guys." Considering that the next option may be a good $2,000 more expensive, it's hard not to be tempted. The bang-for-the-buck factor seems extremely high in my opinion, and the fact that they are located only a few minutes from where I work means I can always stop by and voice complaints (or express my appreciation) in person. I plan on stopping by again this week, and if anyone has specific questions they would like to have answered, or think that I should ask for myself before coming to a decision, please let me know.